A Conversation with Mike “Crash” Craycraft of Ghost Skies Page 3

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Ghost Skies: IL-2 Series Online Competition League

Mark: What exactly is “Game of the Week”?

Mike: Game of the Week is something held over from previous versions of the league. In it, I’ll choose some interesting scenarios with some odd planes that players seldom choose, such as the Mosquito or the P.11c. Game of the Week was such a popular feature in the past that we’ve decided to keep it in the current format. It doesn’t fit into the Legends format, since Legends already has 6 or 7 missions per week to choose from, so we use it to add additional variety to Pyro.

Mark: Has poor sportsmanship ever been an issue?

Mike: Of course, but you can say that with any form of competition. I’ve done my best to minimize the triggers. GS rules have been defined to leave no gray areas. And we have taken a lot of the negotiation away, so there is little chance of argument of disagreement. When we’ve run into issues, it was usually due to a difference of opinion on tactics. But there is nothing I can do about that.

On a whole, squadrons have a fair, fun match against their opponents. A vast majority of the players are mature and great sports, and are a pleasure to fly with.

Mark: Do the Ladders run on certain time schedules?

Mike: The ladders themselves run on a six week schedule. Five weeks of regular play, then a one week final for the top teams. That is for both team vs. team ladders. After that, there is a two week break in between cycles. The 1v1 ladders will run during the break. The first day of the 1v1 ladders is also the first day of the finals. So anyone who didn’t make it to the finals will still have a competition to compete in. And the first day of the 1v1 finals is the first day of the next team vs. team cycle.

Matches themselves can be scheduled and flown 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to meet players’ real life commitments. We don’t limit them to just flying on the weekend because many enjoy flying during the week as well. GS tried that once and it wasn’t very popular.

Mark: Ghost Skies recently had a Tournament sponsored by NaturalPoint. How did it go?

Mike: I thought it went terrific and was very pleased. It was our second Tournament sponsored by NaturalPoint. We kept the name Double Domination, just as we did last year, in case people remembered what we had done. However, it was my first time running a tournament with our new website program. Things weren’t perfect, but they never are. Due to constraints in my real life schedule, I wasn’t able to give the community much notice of the tournament. Nevertheless, we still had 46 two-man teams sign up and compete! Overall I couldn’t be happier with the turn out. I gained some valuable insight that will help make future tournaments much better. We do plan to make prize tournaments a regular offering. But that really depends on proper sponsorship.

Mark: How did Ghost Skies get started?

Mike: Man, there is no easy or short answer for this. I came from the Mechwarrior community. I was an Admin for a league for that game. The owner of that league was planning on expanding out to several different game genres. One of them was flight-sims. He knew I had an affinity for flight, so he asked me to check out a new game called IL-2. I downloaded the demo and really liked it. So I bought the game in a hope to build a league for it with our format. I found that the dissimilarities in the two games meant that there was no way to create a league in the format we were using.

Flying such a realistic flight sim, as well as learning about WWII aircraft and combat maneuvers, got me hooked. So I said goodbye to the Mechwarrior community and started playing IL-2 full time. I still yearned for organized competition however, so I kept looking for ways to develop it. While I was learning the sim, I always had the project in mind. I stumbled along trying out various ways of organizing matches. I had a rudimentary system developed and tried to work out a deal to get a website built. For various reasons that project simply fell apart. I still had the ideas, but no way to use them. It was then that I had just about given up on the dream.

But in late 2003 I met Eddie “DV8” Mora and that’s when Ghost Skies was truly born. Up until that point GS had just been nothing more than a concept. It was Eddie that was able to bring all of my ideas together into a proper web format. It took quite some time, but we eventually opened the doors for Ghost Skies competition in June of 2004.

Mark: What kinds of challenges have you run into? Any set backs?

Mike: The biggest hurdle I have to face is real life. Not only my own, but of the people who volunteer their time and talent for the league. Ghost Skies depends on volunteer work, since paying for the professional work would cost thousands of dollars. Often, when a project needs completing, it will get held up because of one real life issue or another. I am active duty Navy, so a lot of times my deployment schedule would get in the way, causing me to disconnect for long periods of time. Eddie is very talented and stays busy because of it. His work would often leave him with no free time to work on the league. I wish I could pay people for full time work, but my numbers never come up for the Lottery.

The worst setback came at the end of summer 2005. We had ended a competition cycle of Ghost Skies and had decided on a major overhaul of the format and website. At the same time Eddie had been hit with a major life crises, and had to take a hiatus from the league indefinitely and left in short order. This left me with nothing. Not even control of the old website. Eddie had all the access and all the know-how. He is also a very good friend, so it was a tough time. A volunteer Admin with the league, Ben “Viper” Poulter, came up with a solution. He had found a pre-fabricated competition program that we could almost plug and play for Ghost Skies. But it was expensive. I had always supported Ghost Skies out of my own pocket, and costs for a new web server left me without the funds I needed to buy this program. So I swallowed my pride and solicited some donations from long time GS supporters. I was amazed at how quickly I got the funds, and how happy they were to give it! Implementation was slowed down because of the holidays and an unexpected deployment for me during Christmas, but when I returned we got right back to work. Eddie had resolved his troubles, and is now helping out in a limited capacity, when he has time. So, we have kicked off the league once again with an all new website and an all new rule set.

Ghost Skies: IL-2 Series Online Competition League Ghost Skies: IL-2 Series Online Competition League
Ghost Skies: IL-2 Series Online Competition League Ghost Skies: IL-2 Series Online Competition League

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